It seems there are two types of people in the world: those who like their snickerdoodles, sugar cookies, oatmeal cookies and chocolate chip cookies on the soft side and those who like them crispy. The texture of these cookies changes depending on which recipe you use and on other factors in your control. Controlling the softness of your cookies begins in the mixing bowl, continues through the baking process and even to the baked cookies in the cookie jar.
Stay Cool and Stay Soft
The temperature of the butter and eggs in your recipe helps determine whether cookies end up soft or crisp. Warmer eggs, dipped into warm water for one minute, and butter at room temperature cause dough to spread in the oven more quickly and lead to crisper cookies. Cookie dough with cooler ingredients takes longer to begin spreading and remains softer. And don’t forget to let your cookie sheets cool between batches to minimize spreading.
Control the Ingredients
The more butter you use in a cookie recipe, the more your cookies will spread and become crispy instead of soft. Cut down on the butter or replace some of it with another kind of fat to keep your cookies soft and reduce saturated fat at the same time.
Other tricks to keep cookies soft and help them stay soft longer include using high-moisture brown sugar instead of white sugar and reducing the flour in the recipe by a tablespoon or two. Using an egg white instead of a whole egg for one of the eggs in your recipe also helps keep your soft cookies soft. Like cutting back on butter, the elimination of one egg yolk also helps reduce the cholesterol in the cookies.
Follow Baking Tips
Soft cookies transform into hard, crisp ones if you overbake them. Keep your eye on the cookie sheet instead of just watching the timer – your oven may have a hotter temperature than the one used by the recipe tester. Make sure your oven is preheated completely before baking, so the cookies bake more evenly and more quickly. And check your impulse to open the oven door too frequently; doing so can cause the oven to cook unevenly or too hot.
Store the Cookies Properly
Perfectly soft and delectable cookies stay fresh and soft longer if you store them in an airtight container, such as a glass jar with a tightly fitting lid, a plastic bag or a cookie jar lined with plastic. Place a half-slice of bread or an apple slice in with the cookies to add a tiny bit of extra moisture. And avoid storing the cookies in the fridge, because refrigerators are notorious for dehydrating foods. If you’re trying to cut down on carbs, keep the cookie container out of sight in a cupboard or on a high shelf to avoid temptation.
Bring the Cookies Back to Life
You can rescue soft cookies-gone-hard by gently or quickly reheating them. It seems counter-intuitive, but heating actually allow the starches in the cookies to relax and absorb a little moisture from the air. Voila ‒ soft cookies. Zap cookies in the microwave for 10 to 12 seconds, covered loosely with a damp paper towel. Microwave just one or two cookies at a time as a ready-made way to exercise portion control and keep your dessert calorie count low.
Susan Lundman began writing about her love of cooking, ingredient choices, menu planning and healthy eating after working for 20 years on children's issues at a nonprofit organization. She has written about food online professionally for ten years on numerous websites, and has provided family and friends with homemade recipes and stories about culinary adventures. Lundman received her M.A. from Stanford University.